Report of Brig. Gen. Henry Baxter,
U. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., SECOND DIV., FIRST ARMY CORPS,
Camp near Berlin, Md., July 17, 1863.
Lieut. S. M. MORGAN,
Acting Asst. Adjutant-General, Second Division.
SIR: I have the honor to report the following as the part taken by the Second Brigade in the battle of Gettysburg:
On Wednesday, July 1, we were early under arms and on the march from our bivouac, near Emmitsburg, for Gettysburg. We heard cannonading as we approached, and marched as rapidly as possible, arriving near the front where the battle was raging at 11 a.m., halting here a few moments. An order arriving from General Robinson, commanding division, before the brigade had halted, to send forward two regiments at once, the Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Coulter, and the Ninety-seventh New York, Colonel Wheelock, continued their march, moving to the front. The remaining four regiments were ordered forward in a very few moments, and formed on the right of the two regiments already sent forward, which were on the right of the First Division (General Wadsworth). Indications being that we should be attacked on our right flank, I at once changed front by filing to the right and forming forward on first battalion, a division of the Eleventh Corps being on our right at least 400 yards. I immediately sent skirmishers forward, but the enemy now appearing on our left flank, I had again to change front to the left, and moved forward to the crest of the hill, bringing us before the enemy, when the brigade opened on the advancing foes a most deadly fire, soon causing them to recoil and give way. Another line immediately took the place of that repulsed, and at this time they appeared on our right flank, making it necessary for the Ninetieth Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment, Colonel Lyle, to change front to meet them, which they did in perfect order, receiving meanwhile a very severe fire. Again their lines were repulsed and again re-enforced. The Ninety-seventh New York Volunteers, Colonel Wheelock, Eighty-third New York Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Moesch, and Eighty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Major Foust, made a charge, capturing many prisoners, the Eighty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers taking two battle-flags and the Ninety-seventh New York Volunteers one from the enemy. The Twelfth Massachusetts Volunteers had a galling fire on the flank of this brigade at this time, which I think had a great influence upon its surrender.
We were relieved by the First Brigade of the Second Division, having been engaged over two hours, and having suffered severely and expended our ammunition. We were then ordered to the support of Captain Stewart's battery, where we remained until ordered from the field by General Robinson, having been outflanked on our right and left, and retired, under a galling fire, through Gettysburg to Cemetery Hill.
I cannot speak in too high praise of the regimental commanders--Colonel Coulter, of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers; Colonel Wheelock, of the Ninety-seventh New York Volunteers; Colonel Lyle, of the Ninetieth Pennsylvania Volunteers: and Colonel Bates, of the Twelfth Massachusetts Volunteers, who was wounded during the action, but remained until struck a second time and forced to retire, leaving the command with Lieutenant-Colonel Allen, who acquitted himself nobly; Lieutenant-Colonel Moesch, Eighty-third New York Volunteers, and Major Foust, of the Eighty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers--who could all be seen in the thickest of the fight, cheering on their men, and giving system and efficiency to their work. Indeed, officers and men of the command behaved nobly.
Colonel Wheelock, being in the rear, was taken prisoner while passing through Gettysburg, but I have the extreme satisfaction of reporting his escape and return to his regiment, where he was received with cheer upon cheer.
It is with pleasure I make favorable mention of the members of my staff: Lieutenant [David P.] Weaver, acting assistant adjutant-general, who exhibited a coolness and bravery seldom excelled, until he was struck in the foot by a bullet, making it necessary for him to retire. Lieutenant [Francis] Thomas, acting assistant inspector-general, and Lieutenant [Robert C.] Knaggs, aide-de-camp, rendered me every assistance possible. Lieutenant Thomas passed through the battle nobly and with honor to himself, but while passing through the streets of Gettysburg was struck by a shell, killing him instantly. Lieutenant Knaggs was taken prisoner in Gettysburg while executing one of my orders.
Just before we moved from this point, Colonel Coulter was assigned to the command of the First Brigade, taking his regiment (Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers) with him.
About 5 o'clock the brigade moved, with the division, from Cemetery Hill to the left and forward, near and parallel with the Emmitsburg road, where we formed in line of battle and made temporary breastworks, and remained in this position until about 10 o'clock on the morning of the 2d, when we were relieved by General Webb's brigade, of the Second Corps, moving to the rear a short distance, where we remained until about 4 p.m. We were then ordered to the right a short distance, to support a battery of the Eleventh Corps, remaining in this position until about 6 o'clock, being exposed to the enemy's shells and sharpshooters, and losing some men. We were now ordered to the left, to the assistance of a division of the Third Corps, which was hard pressed, and, while moving into position, some of the enemy's shells struck in our ranks, killing and wounding a few men. When we arrived in position, we were ordered by General Robinson to at once send skirmishers to the front, which was done, but no enemy was found, they having been driven. It was now dark, and we were ordered to the right, to the support of a line of the Eleventh Corps, near the position we last left, where we remained until the morning of the 3d instant, when we were again ordered to the support of the batteries of the Eleventh Corps, where we had been the evening previous.
About 9 a.m. we were ordered to the right and rear of Cemetery Hill, in support of the Twelfth Corps, which was then heavily engaged, remaining until about 1 p.m. We were now ordered to the right and front of Cemetery Hill, in support of the batteries, sustaining a heavy fire from the enemy's batteries for nearly two hours. We were then ordered to the left and rear of Cemetery Hill, where we had but just formed line of battle when we were ordered to the left, and on the right of General Hays division, of the Second Corps, where we at once formed line of battle, throwing up breastworks.
In taking this position, we passed under one of the most galling fires of artillery ever witnessed. The main attack had been repulsed, but we were sorely annoyed by the enemy's skirmishers and sharpshooters, and, by order of General Robinson, I at once threw out skirmishers to meet them. The Twelfth Massachusetts Volunteers and a detachment of the Ninetieth Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered forward to drive them back, which was done promptly and with deserved credit to those engaged, moving steadily forward to a point where the ground sloped toward the enemy, though not without considerable loss, and there holding their position.
Here it becomes my duty to report one officer of this command un-favorably-Major Northrup, commanding the Ninety-seventh New York Volunteers, who relieved the picket about 1 o'clock on the morning of the 4th, dropped his line back from the crest of the slope already mentioned some 15 rods (more or less) without being pressed, where I found his line just after daylight in the morning, he having left it and come in to inquire if it was not time for him to be relieved. I refused to relieve him until he re-established his line, which was done, but not without some work. I think it due to the men to say I do not believe they were at fault.
We remained in our present position until the morning of the 5th, when it was found the enemy had disappeared, and we shortly moved out of the intrenchments to the left, where we bivouacked for the night.
A list, by name, of casualties has been previously forwarded. The brigade went into the battle of the 1st instant with a few less than 1,200, and lost, to the time of withdrawing from our last position taken, 645, the heavy loss being on the 1st instant.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Brigade.
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